ENTRY FROM: 2016 Top Health Promotion Professionals

Nominee: Marie Story

Creating a Culture of Wellness

At some organizations — like Walsh Duffield, wellness is infused within the culture. In fact, over the past eight years, they’ve developed and implemented a robust wellness program for its 100+ employees. Each year, they’ve increased the wellness resources available and introduced new programs that support positive behavior change. Wellness is an integral part of the organization and also, as an insurance broker, a valuable service that Walsh brings out to its clients.

Marie Story, Wellness Team Leader, is one of three wellness staff at Walsh. She has over five years of experience in health promotion and education. Her background is in health coaching and personal training, which is a great compliment to the skills of the other two wellness coordinators; both specializing in nutrition. Together, they make a great team and provide valuable resources to employees internally and across their client base.

Marie Story

1.Professional Development

Marie has her Master’s degree in health promotion and education and holds certifications as an ACSM Personal Trainer, ACE Health Coach and is a NCHEC Certified Health Education Specialist. All of these certifications are critical for bringing best practices to clients and helping individuals work on their personal health goals.

Walsh Duffield’s wellness team has won worksite wellness awards from the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association. Marie is passionate about wellness because she understands the impact that a positive work culture has on creating a healthy work-life balance in this hectic world we all live in.


2.Demonstrated Success

One of the most significant WELCOA benchmarks supported within our organization is “Capturing Senior Level Support”. We believe this is the most critical benchmark for adopting a positive wellness work culture. Walsh Duffield’s president, Ted Walsh, is the greatest advocate and supporter of onsite and client wellness initiatives. His open communication and participation in wellness activities show staff and clients that wellness is much more than saving money on healthcare expenses; it is truly an engagement and morale-building tool. 

Each year at Walsh Duffield employees and their spouses are given the opportunity to participate in a biometric screening for metabolic syndrome (blood pressure, HDL cholesterol, fasting glucose, waist circumference and triglycerides). This program provides insight into how each individual can make healthy lifestyle changes to lower their risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and even some types of cancer. The goal is to make participants aware of their health status and then give them the tools to lead a healthier lifestyle. Onsite, Walsh offers a free gym, healthy vending machine, walking/treadmill meeting room, blood pressure cuff and classes such as boot camp and yoga. Individuals can even meet with the wellness staff to personally address their health concerns and receive positive feedback and tips on how to change their diet and exercise habits to improve their overall health. We believe all of these opportunities are the very definition of WELCOA’s benchmark, “Creating a Supportive Environment”.

By implementing this screening program, we are able to see positive results on the clinical side, as well as improvements in organizational culture. This type of tracking is essential to supporting WELCOA’s benchmark, “Collecting Data to Drive Health Efforts”.  Over 90% of our population has engaged with their physician in the past year, much higher than we typically see. Additionally, our aggregate reporting for the screening program shows positive shifts in moving people from high to moderate to low risk. We currently have 86% of our employees in the low-risk category. In terms of our culture, Walsh has been nominated as a best place to work the past three years and we think that is largely a testament to the positive wellness environment we have created.


Marie is an advocate for creating realistic health and wellness goals and supports the concept of “everything in moderation”. Getting and staying healthy is not about depriving yourself, but learning to make realistic changes that you can use everyday. She loves to cook and finds ways to make healthier versions of favorite comfort foods. Additionally, she loves to exercise at her home to avoid the typical excuses that come with getting to the gym; exercise can be simple and enjoyable with just a few pieces of equipment at home.

Marie believes her engagement with the local community has allowed her to be seen as a leader in worksite wellness.  Her advice to others; meet with as many people in the wellness field as you can. Marie is part of a committee that brings together organizations on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. She has found that networking with a variety of professionals, from biking companies to farmer’s markets, can spark creative, inspiring ideas.

4. Innovation

In our organization, many employees are tied to their desks for the majority of the workday. This sedentary lifestyle can not only lead to weight gain, but can cause a variety of ergonomic-related injuries. At our organization, anyone who would like a standing workstation is provided one.  As a result, more than 60% of our office has chosen this option. Not only does the standing desk help with posture and encourage movement throughout the day, but it helps to improve productivity as well. Individuals are also provided the opportunity to receive a professional ergonomic assessment. These assessments ensure that each employee knows how their workstation should be customized for their needs. We want people to be comfortable and effective at work, and feel that this unique offering makes it much easier to have a desk-based job.

5. Compelling Vision

I believe one of the biggest opportunities in the health promotion industry we will see in the next 5 years includes better ways to measure the Value on Investment (VOI) for wellness programs. In the past, there has been such a heavy emphasis on the medical savings and it is my belief that wellness is so much more than saving money. Within our own company we have seen our wellness culture become a great way to recruit new talent and retain valuable employees. Additionally, my goal is to stay current with industry trends. It is my belief that wellness programs are going to transform into a holistic and multidimensional approach in the next few years and I hope to expand my knowledge on these emerging areas in order to improve both Walsh Duffield’s, and our clients’, wellness programs.  

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Marie Story WD's Wellness Team Bike share program Healthy Vending
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Marie S.
Marie works as a wellness team leader for Walsh Duffield, an insurance broker based in Buffalo, NY. She works internally to help employees at Walsh get and stay healthy. The organization provides many resources to work on achieving their health goals--an onsite Blood Pressure cuff, standing desks, a bike share program and onsite fitness center. Marie's role is to coordinate onsite wellness initiatives and programs. Every year, employees and their spouses participate in an annual blood screening. This screening provides individuals with a risk score for metabolic syndrome. The goal is to keep employees healthy so that they can be productive and happy at home and work. View Marie S.'s Profile.
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